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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Farrer   19 May [1868]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

May 19

My dear Mr Farrer

Many thanks for your notes. I do not doubt that you are right & I wrong. How I came to make such a blunder I do not know, for I examined the flowers repeatedly. I suppose I reasoned from the shape of the caudicle, & it is a fatal fault to reason whilst observing, though so necessary before hand, & so useful afterwards.2

I will try to find a specimen & convict myself. I wish you or some one cd find out what insects visit the fly ophrys, & for what purpose.3

I am delighted to hear that you are interested about the structure of orchids; I was formerly quite fascinated with these plants; especially with O. pyramidalis & the common Listera.4

Many thanks for the facts about dogs.5

Believe me | My dear Mr Farrer | yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letters from T. H. Farrer, 17 May 1868 and 18 May 1868.
See letters from T. H. Farrer, 17 May 1868 and 18 May 1868. Farrer had written to CD of experiments of his own that threw into doubt CD’s assertion in Orchids, pp. 55–6, that the caudicle of Ophrys muscifera (the fly ophrys) did not bend.
In Orchids 2d ed., p. 47, CD commented that he had never seen insects approach the flowers of Ophrys muscifera.
For CD’s observations on Orchis pyramidalis and Listera, see especially Correspondence vols. 8 and 9.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Orchids 2d ed.: The various contrivances by which orchids are fertilised by insects. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition, revised. London: John Murray. 1877.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.


Thanks THF for correcting the error in Orchids.

Asks him to find out what insects visit the fly orchid and for what purpose.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Farrer, 1st baronet and 1st Baron Farrer
Sent from
Source of text
Linnean Society of London (LS Ms 299/2)
Physical description
LS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6185,” accessed on 17 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16